Friday, July 30, 2010

Have Dahl, will Travel

Megan is trying to improve her cooking skills and she's documenting her culinary travels on her new blog My Recipe Journal. My dahl features there today. And if you have a favourite family recipe, she'd love you to send it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winter Trousers for Ivy and Ted (And Some For You Too!)

I ignored the groaning piles of washing-up and laundry last weekend, and turned my gaze resolutely from the evil, beckoning finger of the plasma screen, in order to sew some pants for the small ones.

It was quite exciting because I'd gone out and bought new fabric - something I rarely do. Usually I rummage through my big stash of random material when the sewing urge hits. But I've had cords on my mind lately, so I went and bought some proper supplies, including a sweet cotton for the cuffs, all butterflies and swallows, and rabbits wearing crowns.

I followed this tutorial, sort of, except where I couldn't get my pattern to match the picture, so I just cut into it until it looked right.

I am slightly disturbed by the fact that when I asked Ivy to pose for a picture she immediately started whipping out the Top Model moves. Complete with leftover face-paint.

The main point in favour of the Von-Trappy matching pants: they pass the jumping test!

I still have fabric, and I'm on a roll, so if you would like a pair of wonky cords for your little one, just leave a comment below (and don't forget to say how old they are.) I'll pick the winner on Friday!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gastro: The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

This is my August column for Practical Parenting Magazine. I might not be able to post these columns after next week because of a new copyright agreement, but will still post my Early Years Magazine columns. Regular readers may remember the jolly bout of gastro described here. It was less than thrilling at the time, but luckily, I was able to turn my pain into Art. Take that, bacteria!

Mothers-to-be, you should have received your government Mama Manuals by now. They cover all the usual business – sleeping, eating, and poo management; but there is a hidden section I’d like to draw your attention to. The exact wording I’m unsure of (my manual is a little stained with spinach puree and half-drunk cups of tea) but it goes something like this: Mum Cannot Get Sick.

To be clear, you can, of course, get sick. In fact, you’ll be amazed at how many little bugs and bacteria will take up residence in your system once little people start sharing your home. The actual wording, in fact – let me just wipe that spaghetti off- oh yes. It reads - subtle, but crucial: Mum Cannot Act Sick.

Recently a bout of gastro swept through the Mogantosh family. One, by one, we all went down with what I believe, in Royal households, is called ‘the squitters’. The positive spin is that a family bout of gastro can bring to mind the old saying about hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it's almost worth it, because it feels so good when it's over. At the time, of course, it’s a big box of horrible.

Keith was working in Canberra, stuck with a deadline, hunched miserably over his laptop and a bowl in a hotel room. I was sympathetic. But I envied his quiet room, remote control and peace in which to vomit. I had two kids under four, and I was visiting my parents.

Poor Nanna and Pop. Not only were they treated to the searing logic of three-year-old Ivy: ‘So you are seventy, Pop? Will you be dead soon?’ but they also welcomed gastro (the gift that keeps on giving) into their home.

Ted went under first, then Ivy, and then me. I’ll spare you the details, but at one point I was on the bathroom floor, clutching that old porcelain telephone, waiting miserably for my rising nausea to turn into violent heaving. It could be worse, I thought to myself. At least I’m not starting into the pit of our composting dunny. Then my glasses fell in the toilet.

Dear readers, if you own a tiny violin, now is the time to produce it, and to play a mournful tune as I tell you how I tossed and turned all night in the four inches left to me by my spreadeagled, sleeping children. My back was killing. I’d been a hospital-donkey all day to the little ones. By 5am - violin crescendo, now! - I felt like I could hold down enough food to make a pill cushion for the painkillers I needed to get through the morning.

Take my advice, ladies, if while reading this; you are pregnant with your first. Make the most of your flu while you can. Commandeer the remote control. Call for toast with the crusts cut off in your weakest voice. Sleep, ladies. Sleep. Do it for every flu-ridden Mama out there who lost that option when she lost her mucous plug.

Once the kids arrive, all we have left is the ability to complain, and while I am able to publish my self-pitying whines in a nationally distributed magazine, not all mothers have this option open to them. Check your manual.

Interpretive Dance: I Love You.

I was having a bad morning. And then a friend sent me this and I interpretive danced my troubles away. And now I will teach the kids to do the same; with particular focus on the fine mime-work in 'let me into your window.'

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Life With A Three-Year-Old.

Fine, I'll have my afternoon rest. But I will do it inside a Styrofoam box as I clutch a Tupperware container full of absurd objects.

Try and stop me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Homemade Board Games.

As I write, Keith is on the floor with the kids teaching them how to play his new board game 'Internet Safety Precludes Me from Using The Actual Name Of Our Street.'

Amongst other skills it's teaching Ivy how to make a dice-shaking face. You play by making your way from the letterbox home, past the kookaburra fence, the lemon tree, a short-cut to Milla's house, etc...

It's made, possibly, in a fit of wholesomeness inspired by the compulsive watching of The Wire we've been doing on our new flashy television. I'll show it to you soon, in a guilty post I promise to title 'Bogantosh.'

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Date Night (5-Star Style.)

Keith and I have been off in the big city celebrating our birthdays.(He's my toy boy for another two weeks.) It was a top night out, and more than a little fancy-of-the-pants. I wore red lipstick and dangly earrings, and my handbag contained no sultanas.

Courtesy of a friend who works for the Belvoir St Theatre, we scored some tix to see Benedict Andrew's super-mod version of Measure For Measure.

We had much 5-star fun in the Sofitel. Cognac and apple martinis while inventing tales about odd characters in the bar. Ooh la la.

Looking for a late-night coffee shop, we stumbled across Rockpool instead. Dessert and coffee, Masterchef style. This here is a pecan doughnut number with an apple sundae side manoeuvre. Yes thank you.

This morning, newspapers in bed followed by Eggs Benedict in our old Summer Hill haunt.

We're home now. Keith raced off to soccer the minute we hit the driveway, Teddy greeted me with a career-best in the Stinky Poo Olympics, and Ivy had covered the big issues with Nanna and Pop. 'If Mummy dies, and Teddy dies, and Daddy dies, can I come and live at your house?'

Thanks to Mum and Dad again, for best the Best Babysitters Eva. To the kiddoes, for being so well-behaved. And to Keith for being such a damn hot date!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Miscarriage

The ever-smart and ever-thoughtful pottymouthmama is talking about miscarriage today, in her stigma-busting series. You can read through her comments list for shared stories. It got me thinking about my own experience of pregnancy loss, and reminded me how important it is that we talk about miscarriage - so common, and yet so often suffered in silence.

To that end, here's the first column I ever wrote for Coast Kids Magazine.

Pregnant with my first child, I lived in the city, with an osteopath, an aqua-aerobics teacher, a yoga instructor and an office full of supportive women always up for a coffee or four. When the irrepressible Ivy Scout arrived, we packed her up with the toilet paper and the lentils and moved down the coast to a sleepy town on the beach. Now we live up a dirt road with tank water, a composting dunny, a derelict vege garden and neighbourhood sheep. Instead of glamorous gay men and boutique carrots, we have boys on dirt bikes and neighbours who leave lemons at the letterbox.

When I got knocked up again, my small-town pregnancy was a different experience. Mainly because first time around I was free to spend all my time languishing on the couch, arranging tiny clothes in baby-shapes, eating Chocolate Montes and watching Love My Way. Second-go, I had a toddler who begged at my feet like a dog, hitting herself in the head dramatically until the Montes went back in the fridge. We were in a West Wing phase by then anyway. Life was a little more intense.

In the early weeks of pregnancy with the foetus we named Banana, my dilemmas were several. First, I had three months between finishing breastfeeding and getting knocked up again. Why didn’t I spend the whole time with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a plateful of Brie, sushi, ham and salami in the other? Secondly, how could I get anything done when I had to sleep for two hours in the middle of the day? Thirdly, did my stomach really pop out twelve minutes after the blue line appeared, or was I just joyfully releasing the belly leftover from last time?

The major dilemma, though, was this: to tell, or not to tell?

The generally held wisdom is that you should wait until the magic twelve week moment before releasing the news of your pregnancy to the world at large. It’s all about the prospect of miscarriage. It happens a lot. It happened to us before the adorable Ivy came along.

At ten weeks pregnant, I was getting ready for work one morning when I discovered a bright red spot of blood. It was the start of a devastating 24 hours that ended in surgery to make sure that all the ‘products of conception’ were removed from my uterus. Things get very clinical very fast with miscarriage. Your foetus has become ‘product’, your baby no longer exists, and you are no longer a mother. I got home feeling empty and shocked, and went to bed.

My partner got on the phone. He told a few friends and family, who passed on the news. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but the cards, flowers and messages started arriving and when I returned to work, women sensitively found moments to share their stories with me. I had become part of a community, where the members understood my loss, and shared and grieved with me.

Miscarriage is an experience shared by, on average, one in six women, although many don’t talk about it, and in the joyful, hopeful world of pregnancy and motherhood, talk of losing babies can seem inappropriate, even distasteful. It can just feel like bad juju. In a subsequent pregnancy, 80-85% of women will go on to produce a healthy baby. I was lucky enough to be among the majority, and in good time Banana became Theodore Fox, known to us as Teddy the Beautiful, Foxy the Ox and (surprisingly tall, with sky-blue eyes and golden hair) Sven Olafson the Watchmaker, secret son-of-milkman.

I’ve never regretted the telling. When you give the people who love you the opportunity, they will support you with kindness and sensitivity, as well as Chocolate Montes. Losing a baby was a sad and traumatic experience, but for us, grieving alone would have been worse. And in my new coast-community, I’m sure I would have found the same community of women, the shared sadness, and the support.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Power of Positivity - Can You Help?

An old friend of mine is coping bravely with every parents nightmare - her 21 month old son has been diagnosed with leukaemia. She is posting about his journey to health here, and tomorrow Cindy and Pete receive the results of his bone marrow biopsy.

Cindy is asking for help. She says:

I believe that the thoughts and words we choose to focus on or put energy into have a powerful effect on our lives. Studies have proven that collective meditation, prayer, positive thoughts or affirmations can make a real difference in the circumstances of our lives. The more specific you are with your thoughts, words, prayers, and desires - the more you are likely to manifest the specific outcomes you are desiring.

Tomorrow we will be getting the results of Oscar's bone marrow biopsy and current research shows that children who go into remission in the first 4-6 weeks have a better prognosis.So, whatever your belief system, could you please all take time out at 7pm Monday 12th and either think a positive thought for us, prayer for us, or send some positive energy our way.

It has been shown that if you all do it at the same time the collective power of your consciousness is more effective. Insert your own belief system - I have no prejudice for any particular religion, philosophy or approach - they all lead to the same positivity as far as I am concerned. Please try to be specific in your thought/prayer/meditation, for example:

"Oscar's bone marrow is clear and he is in remission."

7pm, my friends! Pray, think, wish, meditate and send little Oscar your best.

Also, if you have any experience of helping a child through cancer, please comment on Cindy's blog. I know she'd appreciate your support and advice.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nothing Spells Glamour Like A Spew Wash.

So the kids are recovered from the snot festival, and I only have the last lingering symptoms, but Keith is pretty sick. He's got the rabbity eyes, the hacking cough and he's gone all cotton-woolish. Earlier he crawled down the hall back to bed to save energy.

But is he planning on playing soccer this afternoon? Oh yes, yes of course. Only the Ebola virus would keep him from his soccer game; and only then if his organs were actually liquefying. Your early-stage shakes and fevers would never keep him off the field.

I fear it will be a pitiful sight.

Now the colds are over the kids seem to have caught some sort of tummy bug. Let the night-spews begin! The house is groaning under the weight of stinky laundry and washing-up.

I've loaded the Ipod with interesting chatter, I've got my working boots on and I'm ready to take on the challenge. First; to rinse a voluptuous vomit off a straw rug under the tap of the water tank.

Wish me luck. I'm going in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Which Comedy and Chocolate Don't Mix.

I was standing in line at BiLo when I realised that the businessman in front of me had lightly rested his Tam Tams on the grocery-divider.

Problematically, the comedy switch in my brain always favors funny over appropriate, and the edit filter was never installed, so I didn't hesitate to say 'ooh, I'll have those,' in a bad comedy accent, pick up his biscuits and put them on my side of the barrier.

It wasn't champagne comedy, it's true. I was just looking for a little light relief in a crazy, mixed-up world, but I picked the wrong patsy. The businessman didn't appreciate my subtle comedic satire on supermarket mores. He snatched his Tim Tams back angrily and placed them firmly on his side of the barrier. For the next five minutes there was a terribly awkward silence.

He'll probably turn out to be the husband of some mother at pre-school, and I'll meet him at a working bee, and we'll always have a terrible, unspoken, secret past.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thirty-Nine, Dudes!

It's been quiet her in Mogantosh town. I've been battling with a low-grade virus for control of the body, and it's been winning. Feeling a bit defeated by the house, the kids, and life this week. No energy to get on top of things. Holiday malaise.

Yesterday, at breakfast, it all fell apart. Ivy took a bite of her banana and then refused any more. 'Why should I?' she said. 'Because it's disrespectful to the banana!' I fretted hopelessly, as my internal self regarded me with pity. Teddy pulled his banana in two and then sobbed for ten minutes because I couldn't put it back together.

We're all just a bit off kilter.

But then my birthday appeared! I was woken by a puddle of children bearing a coffee machine, snotty cuddles and lots of chocolate. Keith produced Eggs Benedict and Ivy helped me eat it. Then she helped me me set the equipment up, and our first round of latte and cino-babies were superb. I told the kids we'll be having elevenses from now on and practicing the art of conversation. Ivy said 'Yes, like when Teddy did push me over in the kitchen.' Gossipy, dramatic, slightly bitchy- a good start.

Keith went back to work in the caravan and I pottered around, trying to get the house in order and stroking my coffee machine. Went nowhere, saw nobody. I felt the love of friends and family via Facebook and singing telephone calls, but didn't actually have to put a bra on.

Last night we split a cupcake and then convened the Family Band for a session. Ivy (who only answers to Laura Ingalls this week) rocked some crazy harmonica. Teddy trashed the set. Keith and I got some excellent harmony once or twice.

I love this crew of mine so much.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sleepy Bears.

Big Daddy made it safely home from his conference. Hip Ray!

He's taken a weeks holiday, and we've stayed low, struck with holiday sloth, and a little bit of virus. Lots of big plans have been sidelined in favour of long baths and trashy memoirs and couch-napping. Ivy is going through what I believe is called a challenging phase.

It's taking some management.

Over the last few days she's tried to talk her way out of bed with:

a) Insisting 'But I had a nightmare!' (moments after the door is shut)
b) Throwing herself onto the floor and insisting she can't get up.
c) Biting herself vigorously on the arm and then weeping in surprised indignation.

Teddy is not so much a small boy as a child-sized mound of snot in a Wondersuit. He's got a streaming, gummy-eyed, sneezy, coughing bastard of a cold, and all he can say, over and over, is 'Mummy Bear' in a particular rising inflection that is both warming my heart and burning a hole in my brain.

It's been colder than the heart of a politician around here. Rugged up almost beyond his capacity to wal and clutching his 'babies', Ted ventured out into the backyard long enough to accept a gift of home-made lemon curd from Helen next door.

Keith's been doing some work on phase 2 of his bookshelf project.

There's been a bit of rocking out.

But mainly, there seems to have been a lot of this.

I think we've needed it.
Hopefully we'll return to higher-order functioning soon.